Using Toys as Reinforcers

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Have you ever wanted to reward your dog for a job well done, but didn’t have food treats with you? Consider playing with your dog to reinforce good behavior! Using play as a reinforcer adds variety to your training routine and helps strengthen your relationship. The key is to find a toy or interactive game (tug, retrieve, chase) that your dog enjoys.

Training at a Distance

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When training at a distance, there are many different objects that can be used to help your dog to stay in place, such as a mat or raised platform. These training aids give your dog a definitive place to be. However, sometimes you may find the need to train your dog from a distance without the use of a platform or mat to anchor him. This was the case for Ken Ramirez when working with his dog Marlin on The Ranch.

Teaching Behaviors as Secondary Reinforcers

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Understanding reinforcement is the key to understanding how dogs learn. Reinforcement can be categorized as either primary or secondary. A primary reinforcer is a reinforcer that an animal needs to survive, such as food, water, or shelter. When you give your dog a treat for sitting on cue, you are using a primary reinforcer. However, when reinforced regularly, the “sit” behavior itself can become a secondary reinforcer.

Getting Started with Non-Food Reinforcers

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The effective use of non-food reinforcers is a critical skill that all trainers will likely use or need at some point in their training career. In this video, Ken Ramirez and his dog Marlin demonstrate the use of clapping as a conditioned reinforcer. Ken begins by teaching Marlin that clapping is associated with yummy food. Once Marlin associates clapping with reinforcement, Ken begins cueing behaviors and then clapping.

Creating a Two-Part Sequence

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If your dog is fluent in more than one behavior, those individual behaviors can be linked together by learned cues to form a sequence! This allows us to teach dogs more complex tasks, such as go to his mat and lie down, without pausing to reward him at every transition. It is also helpful in dog sports which requires a dog to perform a series of behaviors without stopping.